Autopsy of a Dead Coup
Victor Davis Hanson
illegal effort to destroy the 2016 Trump campaign by Hillary Clinton
campaign’s use of funds to create, disseminate among court media, and
then salt among high Obama administration officials, a fabricated,
opposition smear dossier failed.
So has the second special prosecutor phase of the coup to abort the Trump presidency failed.
There are many elements to what in time likely will become recognized
as the greatest scandal in American political history, marking the first
occasion in which U.S. government bureaucrats sought to overturn an
election and to remove a sitting U.S. president.
Preparing the Battlefield
No palace coup can take place without the perception of popular anger at a president.
The deep state is by nature cowardly. It does not move unless it
feels it can disguise its subterranean efforts or that, if revealed,
those efforts will be seen as popular and necessary—as expressed in
tell-all book titles such as fired FBI Directors James Comey’s Higher Loyalty or in disgraced Deputy FBI Director Andrew McCabe’s psychodramatic The Threat.
In candidate and President Trump’s case that prepping of the
battlefield translated into a coordinated effort among the media,
political progressives and celebrities to so demonize Trump that his
imminent removal likely would appear a relief to the people. Anything
was justified that led to that end.
All through the 2016 campaign and during the first two years of the
Trump presidency the media’s treatment, according to liberal
adjudicators of press coverage, ran about 90 percent negative toward
Trump—a landmark bias that continues today.
Journalists themselves consulted with the Clinton campaign to
coordinate attacks. From the Wikileaks trove, journalistic grandees such
as John Harwood, Mark Leibovich, Dana Milbank, and Glenn Thrush often
communicated (and even post factum were unapologetic about doing so)
with John Podesta’s staff to construct various anti-Trump themes and
have the Clinton campaign review or even audit them in advance.
Some contract “journalists” apparently were paid directly by Fusion GPS—created by former reporters Glen Simpson of the Wall Street Journal and Susan Schmidt of the Washington Post—to
spread lurid stories from the dossier. Others more refined like
Christiane Amanpour and James Rutenberg had argued for a new
journalistic ethos that partisan coverage was certainly justified in the
age of Trump, given his assumed existential threat to The Truth. Or as
Rutenberg put it in 2016: “If you view a Trump presidency as something
that’s potentially dangerous, then your reporting is going to reflect
that. You would move closer than you’ve ever been to being oppositional.
That’s uncomfortable and uncharted territory for every mainstream,
non-opinion journalist I’ve ever known, and by normal standards,
untenable. But the question that everyone is grappling with is: Do
normal standards apply? And if they don’t, what should take their
I suppose Rutenberg never considered that half the country might have
considered the Hillary Clinton presidency “potentially dangerous,” and
yet did not expect the evening news, in 90 percent of its coverage, to
reflect such suspicions.
The Democratic National Committee’s appendages often helped to
massage CNN news coverage—such as Donna Brazile’s primary debate tip-off
to the Clinton campaign or CNN’s consultation with the DNC about
forming talking points for a scheduled Trump interview.
So-called “bombshell,” “watershed,” “turning-point,” and “walls
closing in” fake news aired in 24-hour news bulletin cycles. The media
went from fabrications about Trump’s supposed removal of the bust of
Martin Luther King, Jr. from the Oval Office, to the mythologies in the
Steele dossier, to lies about the Trump Tower meeting, to assurances
that Michael Cohen would testify to Trump’s suborning perjury, and on
CNN soon proved that it is no longer a news organization at all—as
reporters like Gloria Borger, Chris Cuomo, Eric Lichtblau, Manu Raju,
Brian Rokus, Jake Tapper, Jeff Zeleny, and teams such as Jim Sciutto,
Carl Bernstein, and Marshall Cohen as well as Thomas Frank, and Lex
Harris all trafficked in false rumors and unproven gossip detrimental to
Trump, while hosts and guest hosts such as Reza Aslan, the late Anthony
Bourdain, and Anderson Cooper stooped to obscenity and grossness to
Both politicos and celebrities tried to drive Trump’s numbers down to
facilitate some sort of popular ratification for his removal. Hollywood
and the coastal corridor punditry exhausted public expressions of
assassinating or injuring the president, as the likes of Jim Carrey,
Johnny Depp, Robert de Niro, Peter Fonda, Kathy Griffin, Madonna, Snoop
Dogg, and a host of others vied rhetorically to slice apart, shoot, beat
up, cage, behead, and blow up the president.
Left wing social media and mainstream journalism spread sensational
lies about supposed maniacal Trump supporters in MAGA hats. They
constructed fantasies that veritable white racists were now liberated to
run amuck insulting and beating up people of color as they taunted the
poor and victimized minorities with vicious Trump sloganeering—even as
the Covington farce and now the even more embarrassing Jussie Smollett
charade evaporated without apologies from the media and progressive
merchants of such hate.
At the same time, liberal attorneys, foundations, Democratic
politicians, and progressive activists variously sued to overturn the
election on false charges of rigged voting machines. They sought to
subvert the Electoral College. They introduced articles of impeachment.
They sued to remove Trump under the Emoluments Clause. They attempted to
invoke the 25th Amendment. And they even resurrected the ossified Logan
Act—before focusing on the appointment of a special counsel to
discredit the Trump presidency. Waiting for the 2020 election was seen
as too quaint.
Weaponizing the Deep State
During the 2016 election, the Obama Department of Justice warped the
Clinton email scandal investigation, from Bill Clinton’s secret meeting
on an airport tarmac with Attorney General Loretta Lynch, to unethical
immunity given to the unveracious Clinton aides Huma Abedin and Cheryl
Mills, to James Comey’s convoluted predetermined treatment of “likely
winner” Clinton, and to DOJ’s Bruce Ohr’s flagrant conflict of interests
in relation to Fusion GPS.
About a dozen FBI and DOJ grandees have now resigned, retired, been
fired, or reassigned for unethical and likely illegal behavior—and yet
have not faced criminal indictments. The reputation of the FBI as
venerable agency is all but wrecked. Its administrators variously have
libeled the Trump voters, expressed hatred for Trump, talked of
“insurance policies” in ending the Trump candidacy, and inserted
informants into the Trump campaign.
The former Obama directors of the CIA and National Intelligence, with
security clearances intact, hit the television airways as paid
“consultants” and almost daily accused the sitting president of Russian
collusion and treason—without cross-examination or notice that both
previously had lied under oath to Congress (and did so without
subsequent legal exposure), and both were likely knee-deep in the
dissemination of the Steele dossier among Obama administration
John Brennan’s CIA likely helped to spread the Fusion GPS dossier
among elected and administrative state officials. Some in the NSC in
massive and unprecedented fashion requested the unmasking of surveilled
names of Trump subordinates, and then illegally leaked them to the
The FISA courts, fairly or not, are now mostly discredited, given
they either were willingly or naively hoodwinked by FBI and DOJ
officials who submitted as chief evidence for surveillance on American
citizens, an unverified dossier—without disclosure that the bought
campaign hit-piece was paid for by Hillary Clinton, authored by a
discredited has-been British agent, relied on murky purchased Russian
sources, and used in circular fashion to seed news accounts of supposed
The Mueller Investigation
The Crown Jewel in the coup was the appointment of special counsel
Robert Muller to discover supposed 2016 Trump-Russian election
collusion. Never has any special investigation been so ill-starred from
Mueller’s appointment was a result of his own friend James Comey’s
bitter stunt of releasing secret, confidential and even classified memos
of presidential conversations. Acting DOJ Attorney Rod Rosenstein
appointed a former colleague Mueller—although as a veteran himself of
the Clinton email scandal investigations and the FISA fraudulent writ
requests, Rosenstein was far more conflicted than was the recused
Attorney General Jeff Sessions.
Mueller then packed his investigative team with lots of Clinton
donors and partisans, some of whom had legally represented Clinton
subordinates and even the Clinton Foundation or voiced support for
Mueller himself and Andrew Weissmann have had a long record of
investigatory and prosecutorial overreach that had on occasion resulted
in government liability and court mandated federal restitution. In such
polarized times, neither should have involved in such an investigation.
Two subordinate FBI investigators were caught earlier on conducting an
affair over their FBI-issued cell phones, and during the election cycle
they slurred the object of their subsequent investigation, ridiculed
Trump voters, and bragged that Trump would never be elected. Mueller
later staggered, and then hid for weeks the reasons for, their
The team soon discovered there was no Trump-Russian 2016 election
collusion—and yet went ahead to leverage Trump campaign subordinates on
process crimes in hopes of finding some culpability in Trump’s past
50-year business, legal, and tax records. The point was not to find who
colluded with whom (if it had been, then Hillary Clinton would be now
indicted for illegally hiring with campaign funds a foreign national to
buy foreign fabrications to discredit her opponent), but to find the
proper mechanism to destroy the presumed guilty Donald Trump.
The Mueller probe has now failed in that gambit of proving
“collusion” (as even progressive investigative reporters and some FBI
investigators had predicted), but succeeded brilliantly in two ways.
The “counterintelligence” investigation subverted two years of the
Trump presidency by constant leaks that Trump soon would be indicted,
jailed, disgraced, or impeached. As a result, Trump’s stellar economic
and foreign policy record would never earn fifty percent of public
Second, Mueller’s preemptive attacks offered an effective offensive
defense for the likely felonious behavior of John Brennan, James
Clapper, James Comey, Andrew McCabe, Bruce Ohr, Peter Strzok, and a host
of others. While the Mueller lawyers threatened to destroy the lives of
bit players like Jerome Corsi, George Papadopoulos, and Roger Stone,
they de facto provided exemption to a host of the Washington hierarchy
who had lied under oath, obstructed justice, illegally leaked to the
press, unmasked and leaked names of surveilled Americans, and misled
federal courts under the guise of a “higher loyalty” to the cause of
destroying Donald J. Trump.
The Palace Coup
All of the above came to a head with the firing of the chronic
leaker FBI Director James Comey (who would lie to the president about
his not being a target of an FBI investigation, lie to House
investigatory committees by pleading amnesia and ignorance on 245
occasions, and repeatedly lie to his own FBI bureaucrats).
In May 2017, acting FBI director Andrew McCabe took over from the
fired Comey. His candidate wife recently had been a recipient of huge
Clinton-related campaign PAC donations shortly before he began
investigating the Clinton email scandal. McCabe would soon be cited by
the Inspector General for lying to federal investigators on numerous
occasions—cynically stooping even to lie to his own New York FBI
subordinates to invest scarce resources to hunt for their own
nonexistent leaks as a mechanism for disguising his own quite real and
The newly promoted McCabe apparently felt that it was his moment to
become famous for taking out a now President Trump. Thus, he assembled a
FBI and DOJ cadre to open a counterintelligence investigation of the
sitting president on no other grounds but the fumes of an evaporating
Clinton opposition dossier and perceived anger among the FBI that their
director had just been fired. In addition, apparently now posing as
Andrew McCabe, MD, he informally head counted how many of Trump’s own
cabinet members could be convinced by McCabe’s own apparent medical
expertise to help remove the president on grounds of physical and mental
incapacity under the 25th Amendment. This was an attempted, albeit
pathetic, coup against an elected president and the first really in the
history of the United States.
At one point, McCabe claims that the acting Attorney General of the
United States Rod Rosenstein volunteered to wear a wire to entrap his
boss President Trump—in the manner of Trump’s own attorney Michael
Cohen’s entrapment of Trump, in the manner of James Comey taking
entrapment notes on confidential Trump one-on-one meetings and leaking
them to the press, and in the manner of the Department of Justice
surveilling Trump subordinates through FISA and other court
McCabe was iconic of an utterly corrupt FBI Washington hierarchy,
which we now know from the behavior of its disgraced and departed
leadership. They posed as patriotic scouts, but in reality proved
themselves arrogant, smug, and incompetent. They harbored such a sense
of superiority that they were convinced they could act outside the law
in reifying an “insurance policy” that would end the Trump presidency.
The thinking of the conspirators initially had been predicated on
three assumptions thematic during this three-year long government effort
to destroy Trump:
One, during 2016, Hillary Clinton would certainly win the
election and FBI and DOJ unethical and illegal behavior would be
forgotten if not rewarded, given the Clintons’ own signature
transgressions and proven indifference to the law;
Two, Trump was so controversial and the fabricated dossier was
so vile and salacious, that seeded rumors of Trump’s faked perversity
gave them de facto exemptions to do whatever they damned pleased;
Three, Trump’s low polls, his controversial reset of American
policy, and the general contempt in which he was held by the bipartisan
coastal elite, celebrities, and the deep state, meant that even illegal
means to continue the campaign-era effort to destroy Trump and now abort
his presidency were felt to be moral and heroic acts without legal
consequences, and the media would see the conspirators as heroes.
In sum, the Left and the administrative state, in concert with the
media, after failing to stop the Trump campaign, regrouped. They ginned
up a media-induced public hysteria, with the residue of the Hillary
Clinton campaign’s illegal opposition research, and manipulated it to
put in place a special counsel, stocked with partisans.
Then, not thugs in sunglasses and epaulettes, not oligarchs in
private jets, not shaggy would-be Marxists, but sanctimonious arrogant
bureaucrats in suits and ties used their government agencies to seek to
overturn the 2016 election, abort a presidency, and subvert the U.S.
Constitution. And they did all that and more on the premise that they
were our moral superiors and had uniquely divine rights to destroy a
presidency that they loathed.
Shame on all these failed conspirators and their abettors, and may
these immoral people finally earn a long deserved legal and moral
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